Yesterday I had lunch with Steven at a pleasant café in Frankton: the staff were friendly, the food was great, and I was enjoying relaxing and chatting with Steven.
.......the sound of a toddler crying out for “Mummy”. A small boy aged about two was pulling at the gate of the children’s play room. A little girl around four and a half tried to distract him to no avail, and then she too started calling for her mother. They got louder and louder, until the mother, turned around and said, very coldly, “I can hear you. Be quiet.”
She was there with two other young mothers out for lunch and a latté. A moment later, a little boy, maybe 10 months or a year, started to try and climb out of his high chair, and his mother snarled at him, “Sit down, you have to sit down.” The little boy kept trying to climb out and eventually the woman wrenched him from the high chair, gripping his arms unnecessarily tightly, and then held the child very firmly on her lap, continuing to tell him he must sit still and be quiet.
These three young women were sitting when we arrived. As we went to our table after ordering, they had finished lunch and were drinking coffee. By the time the little boy started crying for his mother, we had been there about 20 minutes, which means they had been there considerably longer.
Early this year I had lunch with a friend at the Hamilton Gardens café, where a similar scene was played out, this time with slightly older children. One mother was trying to get her child to eat her lunch. The child was crying, saying she didn’t like it. The mother was insisting that the child the child eat it, and as justification said she had chosen it especially for the girl because she was sure she would like it. The child said, “But I don’t like it,” and the mother said, “Well you have to eat it because I paid for it.” This little kid stuck to her guns, insisting she wouldn’t eat it because she didn’t like it, until the mother said, “Well, there’ll probably be a policeman coming by soon, and when I tell him you won’t eat your lunch, he’ll arrest you.” Or words to that effect. This was too much for Marcia and me, but just as we were about to get up and say something, the mother said, “Oh, all right, go and play then.” I think she may have caught a glimpse of our horrified faces.
I’ve had four kids. I know it’s hard. I know that sometimes you just so need to spend time relaxing and talking with adult friends who understand what it’s like, but get real ladies! These are children. A café is not an interesting place for children. A playroom is only fun for a little while, when it doubles as a prison cell. A highchair is pretty damn boring once you’ve eaten lunch. And policemen are not people to threaten your child with unless you are 100% sure she will never need to turn to one for help.
Personally, I don’t mind kids in cafés making a bit of noise, running around, playing – as long as they don’t steal my food or wipe their food-embellished faces on me. However I do hate seeing and hearing unhappy kids being lied to, being expected to behave like adults, and not receiving any smiles or love or cuddles from the most important person in their world.